S$400m to be spent to transform old buildings into National Art Gallery

By Hasnita A Majid, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 20 March 2007 1845 hrs

SINGAPORE: Up to S$400 million will be spent to transform two of Singapore's oldest buildings - the former Supreme Court and City Hall - into the National Art Gallery.

And when the Gallery is ready in five years, it will potentially have a collection of 8,000 art pieces from Singapore and Southeast Asia - some of which have never been shown to the public.

The halls that have housed many historical events and memories of yesteryear will continue to do so when they are transformed into the new national icon, this time in the form of thousands of visual art pieces that have gone through the passage of time.

Early 20th century paintings acquired by the British colonial leaders to contemporary visual arts will deck the walls of the two buildings.

Giving an update on the progress of the project, the overseeing committee said the National Art Gallery would become an important icon in Singapore's growing arts and cultural landscape.

While having its own unique design, it will be modelled after other world-class visual arts institutions.

Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Chairman, National Art Gallery Steering Committee, said: "To some degree, it will resemble the National Gallery in London, in that the National Gallery in London exhibits the national collection of the United Kingdom.

"It's not a museum that exhibits British art, exclusive British art. So in the same way, our National Gallery will display our national collection which is largely focused on Southeast Asia and Singapore, and Singapore Art will be displayed in the context of Southeast Asian art."

The Gallery will also be a lifestyle hub as well as a centre for both study and research into Singapore and Southeast Asian art.

The competition to pick the best design ideas for the buildings has attracted the interest of more than 700 local and overseas architects so far.

But only six will eventually be selected as finalists.

Some areas will be preserved, such as the Surrender Chamber, the Chief Justice's Chamber, the first Prime Minister's Office, four courtrooms, the lobbies and the façade of the buildings.

An international search is also on for the director of the National Art Gallery, which hopes to attract one million visitors annually when it is fully operational.

The new director will be made known by the end of the year.

- CNA/so

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